Playing the Odds: A New Response to Lucretius's Symmetry Argument

European Journal of Philosophy 18 (3):414-424 (2009)
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Abstract: Most commentators have assumed that Lucretius's symmetry argument against the fear of death is flawed. There remains, however, dispute as to what the flaw is. After establishing what I understand the target of Lucretius's argument to be (a desire for a longer life as such), I argue for a novel interpretation of what the flaw is, namely, that extending one's life into the time before one was actually born would be an uncertain bet for one who wanted to extend his life, whereas extending one's life beyond the time one actually dies is a sure bet. This account of what the flaw is has the particular merit of relying only on simple concepts used in everyday reasoning and thus can explain why Lucretius's argument gains no traction even in the absence of sophisticated philosophical analysis



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Jeremy R. Simon
Columbia University

Citations of this work

An Evaluation of Epicurus and Lukretius' Perceptions of Death and Non-Existence.Mustafa Çakmak - 2018 - Beytulhikme An International Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):357-376.

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References found in this work

Mortal questions.Thomas Nagel - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mortal Questions.Thomas Nagel - 1983 - Religious Studies 19 (1):96-99.
Some puzzles about the evil of death.Fred Feldman - 1991 - Philosophical Review 100 (2):205-227.
Value, Respect, and Attachment.Joseph Raz - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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